Charmaine Yoest | Media Matters for America

Charmaine Yoest

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  • These anti-LGBTQ group alumni work in federal agencies that will interpret potential anti-trans definition of gender

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Trump-Pence administration is “considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” according to an October 21 story in The New York Times. The definition would be established under Title IX, which bars “gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.” Title IX is enforced in part by the “Big Four” federal agencies -- the departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor -- where numerous alumni and allies of major anti-LGBTQ groups currently work.

    According to the Times, the move is considered “the most drastic” yet in the administration’s onslaught against transgender rights, and “the new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition” of the trans community. The effort is being led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Office for Civil Rights, whose director, Roger Severino, formerly worked for the right-wing Heritage Foundation alongside many other anti-LGBTQ staff who fill the Trump-Pence administration.

    The departments charged with enforcing Title IX are staffed with several alumni from anti-LGBTQ groups, including the extreme and influential Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Family Research Council (FRC). The following people with positions in the departments of Justice, Education, Labor, and HHS have ties to anti-LGBTQ groups:

    In addition to their former work at anti-LGBTQ groups, several of these agency staff have said or supported extreme anti-LGBTQ measures. DOJ's Kupec was a visible spokesperson for ADF and made numerous media appearances defending the group’s anti-LGBTQ work. HHS’ Royce has promoted the dangerous and ineffective practice of conversion therapy, saying that “the ex-gay movement is a very important part of the story” and that she had counseled “people who were in a homosexual lifestyle.” She contended then that they “generally found themselves in a desperate place” and “have tried to find fulfillment in ways that are against God’s principles,” using that claim to argue against same-sex marriage. Her former employer, FRC, has vehemently supported conversion therapy. Another HHS staffer, Bowman has said that advocates for same-sex marriage have an “appetite for McCarthyism” and compared them to thugs. Additionally, two other FRC alumni -- Charmaine Yoest and Teresa Manning -- temporarily worked for the Trump-Pence HHS. Yoest moved to a White House job, and Manning abruptly stepped down from the job.

    HHS’ suggested language defines sex “as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with,” which defies medical consensus and the lived experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming people all over the world. Vox’s German Lopez described how the proposal would affect the everyday lives of transgender Americans:

    The proposal would effectively erase protections for trans people, who identify with a gender different from the one assigned to them at birth, from federal civil rights laws — ensuring that the laws do not prohibit discrimination against trans people in any setting, including the workplace, housing, schools, and health care.

    Furthermore, the Human Rights Campaign’s Charlotte Clymer outlined other examples of severe consequences that could result in the administration’s “severely restrictive and narrow definition of sex”:

    • Same-sex couples and their families could be turned away from emergency shelters

    • A transgender person could have their insurance deny them coverage for transition related care

    • A gay man could be harassed about being gay at a job skills training

    • An elderly same-sex couple could be denied in home meal service

    • A transgender woman could be turned away from a hospital for a broken ankle

    Additional research by Kayla Gogarty.

  • Wash. Post health care reporter has a history of spreading misinformation about abortion

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    On February 14, Washington Post health care reporter Paige Winfield Cunningham garnered significant attention for tweeting that it was “super weird how people are blaming their diminished sense of well-being on the Trump administration” when “personal events determine [her] quality of life; not who’s in the [White House].” Beyond this insensitive tweet, Winfield Cunningham also has a history of spreading right-wing misinformation about abortion and reproductive health in her reporting.

  • 2017's worst anti-trans lies and smears 

    Media Matters looks back at some of the worst smears, lies, and liars attacking the transgender community in 2017

    Blog ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Right-wing media figures and anti-LGBTQ hate group representatives have a long history of spreading anti-trans hatred and lies, and 2017 was no different. From hate groups attacks on trans children and students to Alex Jones’ anti-LGBTQ extremism, Media Matters rounded up some of 2017’s most transphobic misinformers and their lies.

    Alex Jones cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist

    Hate groups and right-wing media figures attacked transgender children and students

    Hate groups and right-wing media continued to weaponize the thoroughly debunked “bathroom predator” myth

    Conservative media figures misinformed about the transgender military ban and told lies about trans service members

    Right-wing media figures used anti-trans language and slurs when talking about transgender people

    Alex Jones cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist

    Right-wing conspiracy theorist and ally to President Donald Trump Alex Jones has cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist this year as he repeatedly used the slur “tranny,” dehumanized trans people's existence, and spread vile rhetoric about them. Though Jones has repeatedly said he is “not against gay people,” Media Matters has documented a pattern of extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that proves otherwise. 

    In one segment on his show, for example, Jones said that transgender women may be gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting “breast implants” and trying to “doll [their] hair up.” On another episode, Jones compared a transgender man who had a baby to Jones deciding that he is a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that “give[s] birth to leprechauns.” In other segments, Jones has said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips” and suggested that former first lady Michelle Obama has a penis and may have killed late comedian Joan Rivers, saying that he was “not putting trannies down” with the comments.

    Jones accused transgender women of being gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting breast implants and dolling up their hair.

    [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/10/17]

    Jones compared a pregnant transgender man to a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that gives “birth to leprechauns.”

    [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/3/17]

    Jones said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips.”

    [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/7/17

    Hate groups and right-wing media figures attacked transgender children and students

    In 2017, hate group leaders and right-wing media personalities continued their fight against LGBTQ equality in schools, attacking transgender students and children, their parents, and teachers who teach trans-inclusive lessons. These attacks are also happening on a policy level, with hate group Alliance Defending Freedom spending much of the year trying to block transgender student equality by inserting itself in debates at local school districts and in state legislatures about transgender students’ access to restroom facilities that align with their gender identity.

    In July, anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) President Dr. Michelle Cretella asserted that parents accepting their transgender children's’ gender identity is “child abuse” and spread myths and junk science about transgender people during an episode of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. ACPeds is a small, deceptively named hate group with only a few hundred members that is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics. In another example, right-wing media figures attacked a California elementary school teacher for reading two children’s books about gender identity to her kindergarten classroom after a transgender student brought one in to share. Right-wing website PJ Media suggested that parents “move out of [their] community” if they feel it is necessary to protect their children from being turned into “mind-numbed robots who nod affirmatively in the face of lies,” and anti-LGBTQ FoxNews.com contributor Todd Starnes called the events “an example of how schools have been indoctrination grounds for the LGBT agenda” and “activist bullies.”

    Anti-LGBTQ hate group ACPeds’ Cretella called accepting transgender children “child abuse.”

    [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 7/24/17]

    Hate groups and right-wing media continued to weaponize the thoroughly debunked “bathroom predator” myth

    Right-wing figures and anti-LGBTQ hate groups continued to reinforce the debunked “bathroom predator” myth, which asserts that policies allowing trans people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity will create an opening for sexual predators to assault women. That myth has been long debunked by experts and government officials in more than a dozen states, school administrators, and sexual assault and domestic violence prevention experts, but pundits and anti-LGBTQ figures continued to push the lie in 2017.

    On February 15, Tony Perkins, the president of anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), dubiously claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive bathroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms.” Similarly, on an episode of a special panel show on Houston’s Fox 26, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRTx) Jared Woodfill said that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be.” In yet another example, Charmaine Yoest, a right-wing political commentator who is now in a top communications post at the Department of Health and Human Services, asserted that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.

    FRC’s Perkins claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive restroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms”

    [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 2/15/17]

    CRTx’s Woodfill claimed that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be” with trans-inclusive restroom policies.

    [Fox 26, What’s Your Point, 5/22/17]

    Former right-wing pundit Yoest said that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.”

    [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 2/23/17]

    Conservative media figures misinformed about the transgender military ban and told lies about trans service members

    When Trump announced he would ban transgender people from the military, right-wing media and hate groups pushed misinformation about transgender service members and called them “mentally ill.” (The ban has so far been paused by the courts.) Other right-wing lies about the ban included the claim that the cost of medically necessary health care for transgender service members would be in the billions, that allowing transgender members to serve would interfere with military readiness and cohesion, and that a majority of transgender people are unable to be deployed due to their health care needs. Analysts have found minimal additional costs involved in providing health care to transgender service members and no negative impacts on military cohesion or readiness.

    Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro responded to the ban by saying that “the military should not accept mentally ill soldiers.” Shapiro tweeted that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military,” and again implied that transgender people have a “mental illness.” Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who is the vice president of anti-LGBTQ hate group FRC, similarly pushed the myth that transgender people have some “kind of physical or mental illness” and claimed that their inclusion in the military was part of “a test bed for nothing but social experiments.” According to the American Psychological Association, “Identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.” Other leading medical organizations agree.

    FRC’s Boykin pushed the lie that transgender people are mentally ill, saying, "We shouldn't recruit people with any kind of physical or mental illness."

    [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 8/24/17]

    Shapiro claimed that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military. People are 4F [unfit to serve] for a variety of reasons. Mental illness can be such a reason.”

    [Twitter, 7/26/17]

    Shapiro said that “The military should not accept mentally ill soldiers,” but Trump’s announcement “should not have been done by tweet.”

    [Twitter, 7/26/17]

    Right-wing media figures used anti-trans language and slurs when talking about transgender people

    Over the past year, right-wing media figures attacked transgender people with offensive language, anti-trans slurs, and even the denial of trans existence. In addition to the steadfast slandering of transgender people by Alex Jones, other right-wing media figures employed transphobic rhetoric that can have severe consequences on transgender people and youth. Calls from transgender youth to the Trevor Project’s suicide hotline increased this year, and the project cited “anti-transgender rhetoric” coming from elected officials and others as “putting lives at risk.”

    In a November rant lamenting the surge of LGBTQ victories in 2017 elections, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh used the anti-trans slur “tranny” and insisted that LGBTQ people be referred to only as “homosexual,” saying, “the word is homosexual.” On Fox, Carlson hosted a transgender guest and insulted her by accusing transgender people of “faking” and repeatedly pushing the myth that people can just “decide” to be transgender on a whim. This kind of rhetoric places doubt on transgender existence.

    After trans candidates won 2017 elections, Limbaugh insisted that all LGBTQ people be referred to as “homosexual” and used the anti-trans slur “tranny.”

    [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/9/17]

    Carlson insulted a transgender guest and accused transgender people of "faking."

    [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 2/24/17]      

  • Trump's appointees are promoting anti-choice “alternative science” ripped from right-wing media

    LA Times describes appointees as “the four horsewomen of disinformation” on abortion and contraception

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine called out four of President Donald Trump’s recent appointees for promoting bad policy on contraception and abortion -- policies that are rooted in “alternative science” supported by discredited research and right-wing media.

    In a June 14 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Law School professor R. Alta Charo, who focuses on the law and bioethics, wrote about President Donald Trump’s appointment of Charmaine Yoest, Teresa Manning, and Valerie Huber to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as well as his assignment of Katy Talento to serve as a health care adviser on his Domestic Policy Council. Charo lamented that these appointments exemplified how “reproduction has become the victim of alternative science, rife with alternative definitions of well-understood medical conditions.”

    In a June 15 article for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik characterized Charo’s article as “identifying four Trump appointees as carriers of the disinformation virus” and called the appointees “the four horsewomen of disinformation.” Most alarmingly, Charo told Hiltzik that these four appointees “could influence an entire generation’s attitude toward contraception, for the worse.”

    For example, Charmaine Yoest, the assistant secretary for public affairs at DHHS and the former president of the anti-abortion group Americans United For Life, has a long history of misinforming on contraception, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. One of Yoest’s most egregious and often repeated claims is that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, an assertion that Charo explained “will only encourage the alarming pattern of state legislation requiring physicians to provide this misinformation in the name of ‘informed consent.’”

    Similarly, Teresa Manning, the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at DHHS, is a former legislative analyst for the hate group Family Research Council and a former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee. Although Manning doesn’t believe that contraception can be effective, she is now in charge of the Title X program, which provides family planning funds for low-income people. Manning’s belief, which will shape the federal policy, is not supported by science. As Charo noted, there is ample evidence that “hormonal methods are 91% effective and long-acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.”

    Trump’s recent appointment of Valerie Huber to serve as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for health is problematic given the department’s oversight of adolescent health programs. As the former head of a group called Ascend, Huber promoted abstinence-only sex education, which Charo rightfully identified as having “repeatedly been shown to be ineffective at preventing” teen pregnancy. Indeed, as multiple studies have found, abstinence-only sex education failed to prevent a long-term delay in sex or teen pregnancy, and, in some cases, actually led to a decrease in the use of condoms or contraception, increasing the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

    The final appointee Charo criticized was Katy Talento, who now serves as a health care adviser on the Domestic Policy Council. Talento believes birth control causes infertility and miscarriages, which is not supported by the majority of scientific studies. To demonstrate the lack of scientific evidence behind Talento’s claims, Charo pointed to an article Talento had written in which she incorrectly cited a study to claim birth control is “breaking your uterus.”

    According to Charo, misinformation on abortion and other reproductive choices has “been used to support abortion restrictions” at the state level, despite having little factual or scientific basis. Such rewriting of science, Charo claimed, is not done by “reasonable people” for they “may disagree about how to interpret data, but they do not ignore scientific method by giving credence to flawed, fraudulent, or misrepresented studies.”

    Although the appointment of these anti-choice stalwarts may be recent, the misinformation they advance is nothing new in the world of right-wing media. Fox News has continually provided legitimacy to the discredited anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress and carried water for its disproven claims about fetal tissue donation and Planned Parenthood. Fox News has also hosted people like White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who advocates for 20-week abortion bans based on a flawed scientific premise and has a long history of promoting anti-choice misinformation during her appearances on the network. During the 2016 election, Fox News also alleged multiple times that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supported “partial-birth” abortion, a term that has no medical basis and was, in fact, invented by anti-abortion groups to demonize people seeking medically necessary late-term abortions. Similarly, the congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives relied heavily on claims from anti-abortion groups that were promoted as credible evidence by right-wing media.

    Trump’s health care appointees exist in the right-wing media world of “alternative science.” And as the New England Journal of Medicine reported, the impact of these discredited anti-choice views will lead to unsound policies that will have a substantial impact on abortion access and reproductive health throughout the country.

  • Charmaine Yoest Has A Long History Of Misinforming About Abortion, Science, And LGBTQ Rights

    Trump’s Pick For HHS Appointment Has Long Espoused Anti-LGBTQ, Anti-Science, And Anti-Choice Views

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    On April 28, President Donald Trump appointed Charmaine Yoest -- the former vice president of a hate group -- as the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Following her appointment, Yoest has been deleting posts from her joint blog with her husband that detail anti-LGBTQ ideology and push rape apologism. Outlets should note Yoest’s history of extreme views against abortion, LGBTQ rights, and basic facts of science, particularly now that she is the communications head of the government agency in charge of the health and safety of all Americans.

  • Yoest made contradictory statements about public support for marriage bans -- both were wrong

    ››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

    On CNN, the Family Research Council's Charmaine Yoest falsely claimed that "every single time" a marriage initiative has appeared on the ballot, "it's passed with over 70 percent of the popular vote." The statement is wrong for two reasons. First, a same-sex marriage ban failed in Arizona in the midterm elections. Second, all of those that did pass did not get 70-percent support -- only two did. Yoest also falsely claimed that those that passed did so "resoundingly."